Elissa AUTHER, “Wallpaper, the Decorative, and Contemporary Installation Art”, in Extra/Ordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art, ed. Maria Elena Buszek, Durham, Duke University Press, 2011, p. 115-134.
Elissa Auther argues in this article that Warhol’s wallpapers can best be understood as an embrace of the decorative and especially of the decorative’s association with effete homosexuality and femininity.
“In the 1960s and 1970S, the “decorative” was a category to be avoided at all costs, for the application of the term to a work of art was an emasculating taunt that reduced it to an interior-design solution-a joke, really, in the discourse of art at the time invested in notions of formal and intellectual rigor. Robert Morris’s recollection that “the great anxiety” for artists of the period was the potential for one’s work to “fall into the decorative, the feminine, the beautiful, in short, the minor” captures the web of pejorative associations circling around the term.’ This web of associations also includes “craft,” a category of form often conflated with the decorative by virtue of its status as a supplement to the work of arts. Not only has wallpaper been classified as a craft at various moments in the history of art but the criticism leveled against it for being nothing but artifice, surface, or meaningless repetition is also applied to craft. […]
In this essay, I argue that Warhol’s wallpapers can best be understood as an embrace of the decorative and especially of the decorative’s association with effete homosexuality and femininity. While the connection between wallpaper, the decorative, and femininity is secured through women’s traditional place in the domestic sphere as homemakers, it is the discourse of camp that links wallpaper, the decorative, and homosexuality. […]
Warhol’s embrace of wallpaper is a camp elevation of this low, kitsch medium through which he managed both to signify queer identity and to destabilize the art world’s rigid separation of high art and the decorative. Insofar as Warhol put wallpaper at the center of his installations, he turned this traditionally “background” medium into high art and in so doing signaled the triumph of decoration with all of its feminine and queer associations.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elissa Auther is Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs and the William and Mildred Lasdon Chief Curator at the Museum of Arts and Design. In a previous life, she was Associate Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art at the University of Colorado and subsequently a visiting associate professor at Bard Graduate Center. Alongside her scholarly and curatorial work, she co-directed the ground-breaking public program Feminism & Co.: Art, Sex, Politics from 2007-2017.
2000 – Ph.D., History of Art, University of Maryland, College Park; 1995 – Graduate Certificate, Women’s Studies, University of Maryland, College Park – M.A., History of Art, University of Maryland, College Park; 1991 – B.A. History of Art, San Francisco State University.
TANNENBAUM, Judith and BOULTON STROUD, Marion, On the Wall: Wallpaper by Contemporary Artists, ed. Judith A. Singsen, Rhode Island School of Design Museum, East Greenwich, Meridian Printing, 2003, pp 60.
February 7 through April 20, 2003
Rhode Island School of Design Museum
224 Benefit Street, Providence, RI, 02903-2723, U.S.A.
Wallpaper is rarely given the same kind of attention bestowed on fine-art objects or other applied arts. Nonetheless, many artists trained in the fine arts have created striking wall coverings — topical and conceptual, as well as richly patterned — and consider this to be a significant endeavor. The exhibition spans the period from 1966 to the present, ranging from Andy Warhol’s now classic Cow pattern to gallery installations designed specifically for The RISD Museum.
Ann Agee, John Baldessari, Matthew Benedict, Brian Chippendale, Adam Cvijanovic, General Idea, Robert Gober, Rodney Graham, Renée Green, Jenny Holzer, Jim Isermann, Virgil Marti, Jane Masters, Takashi Murakami, Joan Nelson, Paul Noble, Jorge Pardo, Francesco Simeti, Do-Ho Suh, Christine Tarkowski, Andy Warhol, Carrie Mae Weems, William Wegman.
SAUNDERS, Gill, HEYSE-MOORE, Dominique and KEEBLE, Trevor, with an introduction by Christine WOODS, Walls are Talking: Wallpaper, Art and Culture, University of Manchester, Whitworth Art Gallery, Chicago, KWS Publishers, 2010, pp 128.
February 5 through May 3 2010
The Whitworth Art Gallery
The University of Manchester
Oxford Road, Manchester M15 6ER, UK